Friday, December 21, 2007

Fall Into Reading 2007 Wrap Up

So, it's about that time. Time to wrap up the Fall Into Reading challenge hosted over at Callapidder Days. Taken from the list I made in September, here's how I did. (All links are to my review at Epinions.)

Books I Read From My List:

The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz
Candy Cane Murder by Joanne Fluke, Laura Levine, & Leslie Meier
Some Like it Hot-Buttered by Jeffrey Cohen
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Last Light by Terri Blackstock
Green Water Ghost by Glynn Marsh Alam
Staying Home is a Killer by Sara Rosett
Mr. Monk in Outer Space by Lee Goldberg
Beware False Profits by Emilie Richards
The Crafty Teddy by John J. Lamb
On the Wrong Track by Steve Hockensmith
Face Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan
Death in Lovers' Lane by Carolyn Hart
A Threat to Justice by Chuck Norris, Aaron Norris, Tim Grayem, and Ken Abraham
Peppermint Twisted by Sammi Carter

Books I Read Not on My List:

Elmer and the Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
The Dragons of Blueland by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Mistletoe Murder by Leslie Meier
Caught in the Middle by Gayle Roper

Books Listed Not Read:

Blood Matters by Taffy Cannon
Hell for the Holidays by Chris Grabenstein
Faint of Art by Hailey Lind

My thoughts:

Once again, I'm surprised at how close I got to my goal. If I had stuck to my list, I would have gotten through it. Or at least very close to it. The two dragon books are early kid's chapter books that only took me an hour to read, so they don't really translate to a complete book. But it is close. Turned out there were issues with getting Hell for the Holidays published on time, so I just got my copy yesterday. Even if I had stuck to my list, I wouldn't have read that one.

There were quite a few authors on the list I already knew I liked, and their latest certainly didn't change my mind. I tried a couple new authors and one again for a second time. I'm definitely going to read Lisa Lutz's second Spellman novel. I don't think I will read more by Sara Rosett or Leslie Meier. And even if it is free, I doubt I will read more in the Chuck Norris series.

Caught in the Middle was actually a reread, and I loved it again.

I don't know if I could name one favorite, but the list would have to include Crafty Teddy, Beware False Profits, Last Light, and Death in Lovers' Lane.

That's all for now. But if this happens again in the spring, I'll be back.

Mini Review: Peppermint Twisted

Looks like this will be the last one of these for the Fall Reading Challenge for me. The other books I read weren't on my posted list from September.

Anyway, it's time to discuss Peppermint Twisted by Sammi Carter.

Abby Shaw owns a candy store in the resort town of Paradise, Colorado. She's also co-chairing the arts festival committee. A few weeks before the event, Felicity Asbury worms her way into the chair position. Felicity is hated by all in town, and her presence causes an uproar with the artists. But when Abby finds Felicity in her parking lot the next morning murdered, Abby finds herself under scrutiny. Can she find who did it?

It was nice to get back to this series. I like Abby and it was nice to visit her again. The plot had several twists and kept me confused until the end. Unfortunately, the ending was underdeveloped and rush, a flaw with the first two in the series as well. Still, I am glad I read the book.

If you'd like to read my full review of Peppermint Twisted, follow the link.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thursday Threesome for December 20th

This week's edition is brought to us by carolers and The Back Porch.

Onesome: Angels-- as tree topppers? ...or spires? Stars? Bears? What do you like to use to set off that tree?
I actually don't have a tree topper. Which works well because I don't think the top of my artificial tree would support one. I'd love one like my parents have that is basically a star but includes some scenes from the Biblical story in the middle.

Twosome: we have-- heard you're getting something special this year! Do you have any idea what any of your Christmas presents are going to be?
No clue. It probably helps that I haven't actually seen any of my family since they started shopping. But at least I know exactly what everyone is getting from me. And I have them all, too.

Threesome: ...heard-- the worst Christmas song ever this year? Which one is it for you? I mean that one that even if Aunt Martha is playing it on Christmas Eve puts you out on the porch!
Actually, I haven't heard any bad songs this year. No bad version of "O Holy Night." And I haven't come close to hearing Steven Curtis Chapman's horrid "Going Home for Christmas," either. And that makes me very happy.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Is it Friday Yet?

The next two days are going to be so long! I am already ready for it to be Friday and the start of my Christmas vacation. I'm antsy and not focused on anything. I just want to sit back, relax, and goof off.

And it didn't help that we officially got word that we can leave at noon on Friday. Of course, for me that always depends on how much work we've gotten done. But we are talking about closing the year for payroll, including W-2's, tomorrow. Which would mean I'd have nothing I have to do on Friday. Talk about torture! All I have to say is we'd better really be able to leave at noon because I am so ready.

In other news, I have finally officially finished Christmas shopping. Now I just need to wrap it all.

And I am only three reviews away from writing 50 reviews for the 10 4 10 at Epinions this month. Plan to knock two of them out tonight.

Speaking of Epinions, I had a great month earnings wise this month. My digital camera review earned me $30, and my review of an out of print Christmas CD earned me $12. In fact, I actually claimed a spot on the top earning reviews for the month in the music category. That's a first for me, and I'm rather proud of that.

And they've just updated their stats, so I'm off to see how I'm doing.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Mini Review: A Threat to Justice

Threat to Justice by Chuck Norris and three other men is, well, bad.

This is the second book about a successful and elite group of soldiers during the Civil War. It picks up after the war has ended. All six of the men intend to go their separate ways. When they do, they find prejudice no matter where they are.

But none is worse then Ezra Justice and his friend, former slave Nate York. They return to their plantation in Tennessee to find a stronghold of the KKK taking over the nearby town. Can they survive?

The book is not a complete failure. There are some interesting scenes. However, they are buried in a book that wanders all over the place with hardly any plot. To make matters worse, the characters are rather thin. And this is a Christian novel. It makes it obvious by preaching several times over the course of the book.

Personally, I recommend you stay away from this one. But if you'd like more info, check out my full review of A Threat to Justice.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Word Association for December 16th

Found here.

  1. Interview :: Job
  2. Army :: Navy
  3. Unwrap :: Gift
  4. Evolve :: Better
  5. Bus :: Stop
  6. The real thing :: True
  7. Streak :: Winning
  8. Gorge :: Beautiful (I've seen some beautiful gorges on trips.)
  9. Spicy :: Hot
  10. Course :: Golf

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mini Review: Death in Lovers' Lane

Mystery author Carolyn Hart has two mystery series. She is best known for the best selling Death on Demand series. So far, I've only read her lesser known series about retired reporter Henrie O. Henrie teaches journalism at a college in Missouri, and that school provides the setting for Death in Lovers' Lane, the third entry in the series.

Henrie is teaching a directed study this semester on investigative journalism. Maggie, the student, wants to do her final project on three famous unsolved cases in the town, two of them directly related to the college. Henrie agrees, but only if Maggie digs up new facts. And she must have because two days later she turns up dead in lovers' lane, one of the locations for one of the murders. In order to relive her conscience, Henrie O starts investigating the three old cases and poking into Maggie's life trying to find out if her assignment is what got her killed.

With four mysteries to solve, the action never lagged in this book. There were lots of characters, but I was able to keep them straight very easily. And the writing just pulled you in and made you care about the outcome.

If you'd like to read my full review of Death in Lovers' Lane, just follow the link.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thursday Threesome for December 13th

That time again. Brought to us this week by decked halls and The Back Porch.

Onesome: 'Tis-- Hmmm... More or less an older contraction? Do you have any semi-archaic words you use regularly? (Yes, Laurie, "allegro" would qualify...)
I'll throw "'tis" around every so often myself. That's the only one that springs to mind.

Twosome: the-- heck you say? Okay, how about a 'regional' saying you're known to be fond of? You know, the one the relatives just don't get when you say it on the phone... Sure, slang will work !
I'm afraid I just can't think of any. I'm not sure if "My bad" was just a California thing or not, but I really tried to avoid that one, anyway.

Threesome: Season--ings for the season? Mulled cider? Peppermint bark? Apple pie? What do you look forward to in the Winter months?
Peppermint in just about any variety. Though I haven't tried peppermint bark before. Which reminds me. I should look for Peppermint ice cream before it is gone for the year.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More Seasonal

So the last time I walked about life, I mentioned the warm weather. I miss it. About the time I made that post, it grew very cold. Okay, it probably hit 60 today. But yesterday I'd be shocked to learn it got above 50. And there was a cold wind blowing making it very dry and much colder. And we all know how much I like cold and wind. Plus the super dryness bothers my skin.

Other then that, not much has been happening. I'm on track to write 50 reviews at Epinions this month. Next year, I slow down. Reviewing writing isn't as fun as it once was. And this is supposed to be a hobby.

I've finished almost all of my Christmas shopping. Just have one more small gift to get. Of course, I did accidentally order two of one item. I'll probably spend half of what it is worth returning it to Amazon, but such is life.

The big news is we got new windows in my building at work. You know, windows that actually fit in the hole. There were some people who had giant cracks around their windows. Personally, mine didn't latch and I had to use a clamp to hold it closed. They also seem more energy efficent, so it should be nice for holding in heat in the winter and cool in the summer. Not that we need help with the second one. My feet are always frozen by the end of the day.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Does No One Believe in Consequences Anymore?

I never thought this would be the case, but I am furious with Hilary Clinton and President Bush right now for the exact same reason. (Granted, I've been mad at them at the same time before, but always for different things.)

What's the issue? The whole sub-prime loan mess.

Now I'll be the first to admit it is a mess. And the idea of anyone losing their homes doesn't make me happy. But let's break this down.

For the unitiated, the sub-prime loans offered loans to individuals for less then the prime interest rate. In essence, the banks were paying customers to take out loans. Now, there were several varieties. Some only required you to pay a small amount each month, adding the difference in what you should have paid to principal. But all of these loans called for the interest rate to rise substancially in a few years.

And guess what. The interest rates are rising. And the people who got those loans suddenly can't pay for them.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that these offers look appealing. After I bought my condo, I got plenty of offers with 2% interest or promising me payments of $200 a month.

But if it looks to good to be true, it probably is. It's the fine print that comes back to haunt you, and that's what it is doing here, too.

But people didn't read the fine print. They used these sub-prime loans to buy houses they normally wouldn't be able to afford. They figured they could afford it now, and they'd figure out how to pay for it later. Or they didn't bother to read the fine print. But now that their interest rate is rising, they can no longer make the payments.

I do blame the banks equally for this mess. After all, who loaned them the money? I'm sorry, but banks are supposed to make smart loans, and these were smart on either end.

And what was the result? House prices skyrocketed as too many people tried to buy houses. And it got to the point that people couldn't afford anything any more.

Now we are faced with lots of foreclosures from people defaulting on their loans. And that means that house prices are plummetting. Heck, my condo has lost most of the gain since I bought it in one year. If prices keep like this, I'll be upside down a year from now.

So, why am I upset with Bush and Clinton? Because they feel it is the government's job to bail these people out. They are asking banks to keep the sub-prime rate where it is for years. And they are suggesting that the government needs to pay off some of these mortgages.

I'm sorry, but that is just plain wrong. That means that I and other responsible people will have money taken from us via taxes and given to people who made poor choices. Sorry, but it isn't the government's job to bale anyone out of their problems.

And to make things worse, our national debt is completely out of control. With plans like this, I wonder why.

Yes, loosing a home is a horrid thing. But it does happen. It happens to people who make wise choices. And it happens to people who make poor choices. But the government shouldn't be bailing any of those people out of their messes. The government's job is to govern, not take care of us.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Mini Review: Face Time

On the surface, Face Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan appears to be a romance novel, or at least romantic suspense. But that couldn't be further from the truth. It's a mystery, and a good one, too.

TV reporter Charlotte "Charlie" McNally has just been handed the scoop of a lifetime. A woman is in jail for a murder she didn't committ. Granted, it was an easy conviction after she confessed. But Charlie has been handed a tape giving the woman an air tight alibi.

But is it that simple? The tape could have been faked and the woman still claims she did it. Meanwhile, Charlie's station is getting preasure from the Attorney General's office to drop the story. What is really happening?

This book has great characters that I really identified with. The mystery was pretty good, too, but the pacing seemed uneven to me.

That complaint aside, I really did enjoy Face Time.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Word Association for December 9th

Taken from here.

  1. Master :: Slave
  2. Tour :: Travel
  3. Input :: Output
  4. Downtown :: Mall
  5. Pricey :: Expensive
  6. Acceptable :: Good Enough
  7. Terrace :: Apartments
  8. Sunday :: Church
  9. Payoff :: Criminal
  10. Jack and Jill :: Up a Hill

Friday, December 07, 2007

Mini Review: On the Wrong Track

On the Wrong Track by Steve Hockensmith is the second book about cowboy brothers Old Red and Big Red. Old Red has become hooked on the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and fancies himself a detective just like his literary hero. And he does a good job of proving it.

In this book, the brothers take jobs as security agents for the Southern Pacific Railroad. They board a train in Utah to travel to head quarters in Oakland to be trained. But along the way, the boy in charge of the baggage is killed and thrown under the train. But things get weirder when a notorius gang stops the train, gets on, but doesn't rob anyone. What's going on?

The mystery is great and the action moved fast. I literally could not put the book down once I reached the climax. Granted, it helped that I was on an airplane at the time. But if I could, I wouldn't have wanted to.

My only complaint about the book is the language. There were quite a few four letter words, more then I thought necessary in fact.

If you are interested in reading more about the book, check out my full review of On the Wrong Track.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Thursday Threesome for December 6th

This week's edition is brought to us by your local grocery store and The Back Porch.

Onesome: Chocolate-- The joy of the Christmas season? Boxes of See's and Godiva and other "Food Pron" showing up at the office? How do you feel about chocolate at the holidays? Yeah, really!
Actually, nothing has started showing up yet. We tend to get it right before Christmas. You know, when the office is closed for two weeks. Of course, I don't mind since I am trying to cut back on sweets right now. Which is hard because I do love chocolate, just in small doses.

Twosome: Pop--ping into your mind as the next thing that you only find this time of year? What are you looking forward to/forgot to go by to check on/oh, heck, it's time for? Pick one and go for it!
Candy canes. I must get myself some candy canes.

Threesome: Tarts-- ...and is it also "candle time" around the place (work or home)? ...and do you use those 'tarts' to make the place smell nice? (Google it if you aren't familiar with them .)
Those scented products bother my allergies, so I avoid them at all costs.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Man, My Thumbs Hurt

This weekend, I decorated for Christmas. And, naturally, that means fighting with Christmas lights.

Actually, it's been a couple years since I had to do that. I started storing them in grocery bags instead of trying to put them back in the box. Not only is it easier taking them out and putting them away, but I don't have to worry about lose connections. And this year started out no different. I plugged in all four strings I put on the Christmas tree, and they lit right up. I carefully put them on the tree. And the last one I put on stopped working.

So I took it off the tree and tried taking each bulb out and putting it back in. That didn't work. So I tried replacing each bulb with a new one. That didn't work either. Clint fooled with them for a while, too, but we just couldn't get them to light up.

And pulling out each bulb really did a number on my thumbs on both hands. They are still a little soar today, but not nearly as bad as they were Saturday night.

I did get the rest of the decorations up, and the living room looks great as always. I love having my Christmas stuff out.

Of course, that night some of my outside lights decided not to work. Just one third of a string. Unfortunately, it's in the middle of my balcony, so it's really noticable. What's weird is, I was looking right at it when it went out. I had hoped it would come back on, but it hasn't yet. And I just don't have the gumption to deal with it. Guess I'll wait until next year and replace some lights.

In other news, Epinions is running their 10 for 10 promotion again. So I will be trying to post reviews in groups of 10, because for each group I earn $10. I am hoping to hit 40 or 50, but we'll see how the month progresses.

And I've gotten a new badge at Epinions. I am now an Advisor in the Personal Finance category. I can't tell you how rediculously happy that makes me.

The weather has been unbelievable here. Monday night, it was cold with a cold wind blowing. It started warming up Tuesday, and it's hit 80 the last two days. Still really cools off at night, but so nice when I go out at lunch time.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Mini Review - The Crafty Teddy

The Crafty Teddy is the third in the Teddy Bear Collector's Mysteries by John J. Lamb.

When Brad and Ashleigh's home is robbed in the middle of the night, they are upset. To make matters worse, one of their collectible bears vanishes. Depsite police efforts, no trace of it shows up.

A couple weeks later, Brad spots some Japanese mobsters in the area. They ask directions to the local museum. Driving by an hour later, Brad find the museum director dead. But things really get interesting when Ashleigh identifies the antique bears as counterfeit. What's going on?

I love this series. The plot is extremely entertaining. Brad and Ashleigh have a wonderful marriage. And Brad's sense of humor, or should I say sarcasm, makes me laugh the entire way through.

For more information, check out my full review of The Crafty Teddy.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Word Association for December 2nd

Borrowed from here.

  1. Music :: Theme
  2. Insanity :: Crazy
  3. Curtain :: Call
  4. Nickname :: Fun
  5. Container :: Box
  6. Roast :: Turkey
  7. Thong :: Beach
  8. Purple :: Crayon
  9. Holidays :: December
  10. Christmas tree :: Decorated